Global Resilience Solutions > Category:well-being

Guarding ESSENCE: Taking control of the root of your health

Chinese medicine, in contrast to Western medicine, is designed to keep your body healthy rather than just reacting to illness.  The first step to realising this proactive approach is a constellation of strategies collectively called “guarding essence.”  Jing, Qi (pronounced “chee”) and Shen, or Essence, Energy and Spirit, are cornerstones of the Taoist understanding of the human organism.

Essence or Jing is the building block, the fuel if you will, for Qi and Shen.  The degree to which you cultivate and protect your essence determines the energy and vitality that you will have.  Essence is divided into prenatal and postnatal, prenatal essence being the store that you have from before birth that is stored in the kidney organ system, while postnatal essence is produced in your body from in the form of vital fluids, such as blood, hormones, cerebrospinal fluid and lymph.

Food and water are necessary to produce postnatal essence, therefore the first step to balancing essence is to ensure quality fuel for your body.  Chinese medicine classifies food according to its energetic properties; yin foods having a calming or cooling effect and yang vice versa.  These can be consumed in balance based on an awareness of the needs of the your system, for instance by consuming yang food in cold weather.  Before the twentieth century, there was a natural balance between climate and diet, with fruits and vegetables being consumed in summer and heavier, fattier foods in winter.  Even the US Army ran into this principle when it started fighting in jungle climates.  It was quickly discovered that the heavy, high-energy rations used in northern climates led to illnesses.  The result was the creation of specialised “jungle rations.”

Chemically, the distinction is often between foods that have an alkalising effect on your body and those with an acidifying effect.  Your body has mechanisms that regulate its pH balance, but because your body, and particularly the blood, has such a narrow tolerance for pH variation, acidification particularly becomes a health issue, associated with nervous disorders, chronic fatigue, gout, osteoporosis and pretty much every form of degenerative disease.

Essence transforms into energy, and enzymes are a catalyst your body uses for that process.  Enzymes themselves are endowed with measurable energy.  Although your body can produce enzymes, it also gains necessary enzymes from fresh foods.  Unfortunately, large parts of the modern Western diet are nearly devoid of enzymes because of the methods used to cultivate and process them.  Chemical, radiological and thermal interference leave foods enzyme-dead, with your body expending essence to make up the difference.

There are many nutritional principles that we can go through, from food combining to the place of fermented foods in the diet.  Perhaps the most important general rule for guarding your essence through proper nutrition is to avoid putting large quantities of unnatural chemicals into your system.  This could be refined sugar (which is a foreign substance to your body and causes insulin spikes which in turn cause hormonal imbalances that wreak havoc with your immune system), transfats (a carcinogenic mutation of familiar fats and oils through the introduction of chemicals or prolonged heat), fruits and vegetables treated with pesticides, or, especially, genetically modified, hormone and antibiotic-ridden meat.  The idea that the body can cope with this bombardment of totally unnatural molecules and biological inputs without ill effects is ludicrous.

Apart from nutrition, there are a few other ways you can protect essence.  Modern diets lead to toxic bowels, owing to problems like enzyme and fibre-poor foods and improper food combinations further exacerbated by stress.  This slows digestion and compresses stool, allowing toxins to build up and impacting the bowel.  These toxins are then translated into your bloodstream.  Taking the time to cleanse your bowel actually helps to clean the blood, and all of the tissues to which the blood is carrying those toxins.

A Chinese saying goes that a moving hinge gathers no rust, and your body, which is designed to be active, cannot be healthy without exercise.  If your various essential fluids are not exercised, they will stagnate, and the same applies to the joints, which are also a key concern of Chinese medicine.  We have previously written about some of the exercise methods you could use, but at the basic level, anything that gets you moving out in the fresh air and sunlight is the first choice.  Massage and Chiropractic, which get the fluids, tissues and joints moving, are also helpful.

What if the balance of your essence has broken down and your system has gotten to the point of acute illness?  The answer of traditional Chinese medicine is simple.  First, stop eating all heavy, acidifying and mucus-forming foods, especially meat, dairy, most starch and all sugar, and if possible, fast on filtered water.  This is the most basic method of eliminating toxins and allowing the system to reset.  If you can’t fast completely, restrict yourself to fresh fruits and vegetables.  Also important are bowel cleansing and appropriate herbal supplements.  The latter can substantially boost your immune system and promote detoxification.

One thing that sometimes does not come across in popular works on Chinese medicine and yet is essential to guarding your essence is this: your mind effects your body and vice versa.  If you feel bad mentally and stress is making you either sluggish or frantic, this feeling can be symptomatic of a physical imbalance that can be addressed by the methods of cultivating essence.  In general these methods should improve your ability to cope with stress.  But it also works the other way:  if your mental state is imbalanced, that affects the functions of your body, and no one can recover a balanced essence if they are not on a path toward feeling good mentally.

You can watch a good introduction to Chinese medicine right here.  Pay special attention whenever the speakers talk about your immune system – as long as your Jing is strong and flourishing, your immune system will fight off just about anything:

The principle of guarding essence is important above all because it requires you not just to try to follow a list of requirements and hope it makes you healthy, but to experiment and be active in safeguarding the very source of your health.  There is a Taoist principle which can be rendered as, “inflexible goal, flexible methods.”  In other words, in applying these principles, you begin to become aware of your own state and proactively do what will help to restore the balance of your Jing.

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

Four Unusual Resilience Strategies You Must Not Ignore

What is resilience? Resilience defined literally means the ability to “snap back”, so to speak, after being stretched out or bent out of shape. The ability to overcome challenges, or to “snap back,” can be applied to nearly every aspect of your life: repairing a relationship after being hurt, applying for another job after losing one, looking at a failed test and working hard to ace the next one.

Resilience is about turning failures into successes. But how do we find the drive to pick ourselves up off the ground after we’ve fallen? Here are four unusual tips to become a stronger, more resilient you.

1) Make Every Failure a Learning Experience

Every time you make a mistake or experience a failure, instead of immediately trying to put it out of your mind, pause and think about how it could have been averted. Try to  look back on your negative experiences not as failures, but as opportunities to learn. In this way, your mistake becomes simply another experience that moves you closer to your goal.  Of course, this implies a willingness to feel the pain rather than repress it, as illustrated in the following encounter…

I was talking with a high school student recently about this very issue.  She said, “I would get a report back, and see the failing grade, and all I could think about was that it meant I was worthless (i.e., false interpretation). So I would throw it into the trash, or fold it up and tuck it away. And then I would distract myself in any way I could (i.e., repression of the uncomfortable emotion). And so it became this very unhealthy cycle: bad test, not studying because I was so busy recovering from the previous bad grade, another bad grade. But then I started doing something new. As painful as it was, I’d smooth out the tests and look at every single red ‘X’, every single thing I did wrong (willingness to be with the uncomfortable emotion). I kept the tests, and reviewed them. And failure became okay. I learned something with every mistake. And before long, things started getting better.”

Making mistakes is how we learn. It sounds trite, but it’s important to remember when the lemon meringue won’t come out right and the dinner party is in an hour. Next time, give yourself more time. Use a tried and true recipe, or buy your dessert from a bakery. (No one will know!)

Having failed and moved on, you’ve created resilience within yourself, because when you realize that you can make mistakes and move forward, that’s when you start to take risks and trust yourself. The most successful people are able to accept that sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t, and the important thing is to pick up that pieces and move on.

If you research a little into the background of almost every highly successful person, they almost always overcame so many challenges to get to where they are it’s a little mind-boggling. Take Henry Ford, whose early business starts left him broke five times before he started his successful Ford Motor Company. Or Beethoven, whose music teacher once wrote, “as a composer, he is hopeless.” Perhaps one of the most astonishing stories I read was Stephen King’s, whose first novel, Carrie, was rejected thirty times before he became the publishing phenomenon he is today. As Robert Kiyosaki’s mentor used to tell him in Rich Dad, Poor Dad, “Losers are people who think losing is bad.”

The key here is to recognize the mistake, learn, and try again.

2) Use Music to Overcome Negative Experiences

The effects of music on the brain are profound. This is Your Brain on Music, by Daniel J. Levitin, contains the following passage: “Through studies of people with brain damage, we’ve seen patients who have lost the ability to read a newspaper but can still read music, or individuals who can play the piano but lack the motor coordination to button their own sweater. Music listening, performance, and composition engage nearly every area of the brain that we have so far identified, and involve nearly every neural subsystem.”

This phenomenon accounts for the sense of calm and well-being that can wash over your whole body when you close your eyes and listen to music that you love.

Have you ever wondered why you are unnerved by silence? How many times have you walked into a room and by default turned on the TV or radio? Strange as it may seem, this may be a modern spin on a genetic predisposition: as an animal living in the forest, sounds of other animals would be intensely reassuring. As soon as the birds fall silent, it’s a sign there is something wrong, that a large predator is about. This is why one of the scariest moments in a horror movie is not when the music is playing, but in the deep silence when you just know there’s going to be a pop out! Listening to music can calm you down and make you feel like the world is right again.

Music can boost the immune system, help you recall memories, enhance exercising and increase spatial reasoning. Why not harness the power of music to prevail over negativity? Listening to songs you loved as a teenager can make you feel happy and nostalgic, classical music can open your mind, and nature sounds, such as birdsong, can relax you.

3) Use Humor

When there is a problem in your life that needs solving, don’t become mired in frustration and impatience. Try looking at the problem with humor! You may find that trying to solve problems with an open mind and a little creativity can blow your challenges out of the water!

When Antanas Mockus became mayor of Bogotá, Columbia, in 1996, he introduced some pretty humorous strategies to bring order to the crime-ridden city. They were surprisingly effective! To combat the problem of jaywalkers, Mockus hired 420 mimes to gently mock pedestrians who didn’t follow the rules. For example, a person who ran across the road would be followed and imitated by a costumed mime. “It was a pacifist counterweight,” Mockus said. “With neither words nor weapons, the mimes were doubly unarmed. My goal was to show the importance of cultural regulations.”

This may be an interesting method to try to get your child to stop playing video games …

The Columbian mathematician and philosopher also introduced measures such as a “Night for Women” where men were encouraged to stay home and look after the children, and went about asking people to call his office if they found a kind and honest taxi driver (the 150 drivers found were invited to meet with Mockus and discuss how to improve the behavior of inappropriate taxi drivers – they later would form a club called “Knights of the Zebra”). He also appeared in a commercial in which he demonstrated proper water conservation – while in the shower. “The distribution of knowledge is the key contemporary task,” Mockus said. “Knowledge empowers people. If people know the rules, and are sensitized by art, humor, and creativity, they are much more likely to accept change.”

If you’re interested, you can read more about Mockus in this article:

4) Your Emotions Affect the World Around You – Make Use of This

In 1991, Dr. Masuru Emoto of Japan began taking photographs of water crystals – and discovered something absolutely amazing! When he played beautiful music next to a container of water, the water crystals that formed when the water was frozen created beautiful shapes. The same also occurred when he channeled positive emotions at the water. However, when he focused negative emotions at the water, such as hatred and disgust, the crystals that formed were random, misshapen and ugly.  You can get a feel for his research in this excerpt from the famous docu-drama, What the BLEEP Do We Know?

This shows that we can change the world around us using positive emotions as tools for change. When we consider how 90% of our body is water, then we realize the possibilities for changing our own physical makeup into something more beautiful and positive.

Dr. Emoto had this to say in his book, The Hidden Messages of Water: “We must first and foremost live life to the fullest. Our consciousness is what will purify water, and through this we send messages of beauty and strength to all life. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could cover the world in the most beautiful of water crystals? How do we go about this? The answer is love and gratitude. I’d like to ask you to take another look at the beauty of the crystals. If all the people of the world can have love and gratitude, the pristine beauty of the world will once again return.”

Using your emotions to make yourself and the world healthier and happier is certainly a pathway to success.

And Here’s the Subtext to All This…

You may have noticed that all four of these unusual and effective methods focus primarily on your mental-emotional resilience.  And yet they can also have a measurable impact on your physical well-being.  Even better, by training you to develop a positive outlook and overcome your inherent tendency to see the glass as half-empty, you’ll find over time that more and more wonderful persons, events and things seem to be drawn into your life.  Don’t believe me?  Just try it!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

The CORE SKILL of Resilience and How to Learn It Today

Face it, you’re already a leader in some capacity in several aspects of your life.  You are now, you have been or you will be a leader at some point in your home, your workplace or in organizations you belong to.  

Leadership, and more specifically “Self-Leadership”, is the key to attaining true Personal Resilience and all the benefits that flow from it: vibrant health, clear focus, great relationships, a sense of extraordinary well-being and fulfillment and all the rest.  So what is “Self-Leadership” anyway?  

Simply put, Self-Leadership is the CORE SKILL of Resilience itself and of any kind of leadership.  It’s the ability to be the leader of your own life – to establish a clear direction in every area of your life, to establish the actions you’re going to take to move in that direction and to execute those actions on a consistent basis.  

You’ve probably heard the expression “a born leader” so often you assume leadership is an innate quality – you’ve got it or you don’t.  Wrong!  Ninety percent of leadership and therefore of Self-Leadership is learned.   And you can learn it, irrespective of your age, sex or temperament.

The following exercise is designed to set you firmly on the path towards acquiring genuine Self-Leadership.  You can start right now and make a phenomenal difference in the quality of your life over the next week using it.  Here’s a hint for you… If you find yourself vacillating about what to write down or what to do, just force yourself to make a decision and to follow up on it over the next week.  You can always change your mind after that.  Force yourself to be decisive.

Also, you must do this exercise in writing.  So get out pen and paper or open a new document on your computer.


1.   Write one paragraph describing who you are, what values you stand for and what you want to be remembered for (time limit: 15 minutes)

2.  Describe your most important immediate goal in each area of your life – Health / Relationships / Career / Spiritual life (Time limit: 15 minutes)

3. In the coming week, what ONE action will you undertake in each of those areas to get you closer to your immediate goal for that area? (Time limit: 10 minutes)

4. In the coming week, what ONE challenge will you set for yourself to take you out of your comfort zone and build your resilience?  (Time limit: 10 minutes)

5. In the coming week, what will you read, watch and listen to in order to inspire you to adhere to your values, preserve your personal integrity, build your confidence, challenge yourself and benefit others? (Time limit: 15 minutes)

Go through this exercise, follow up consistently on what you promised yourself you would do and I guarantee your quality of life in the coming week will surprise and delight you.  And how will you know you’ve done it right?

Well, if you sit down and take stock of the coming week next Friday afternoon at, say, 5pm, and you find yourself thinking “Damn, this week was a great ride!”, then you did it right.  

And the funny thing is, you’ll be able to say that whether you were “successful” or not, whether you experienced victory or defeat or a bit of both.  As Robert Kiyosaki once put it, “Only losers think losing is bad.”  If you take action, you can be defeated, but you can’t “lose”.